Hurricane Maria takes aim at Puerto Rico as Category 5 storm


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN/AP) — Hurricane Maria has grown from a Category 3 storm into a “potentially catastrophic” Category 5 storm as heads toward Puerto Rico, forecasters said.

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A hurricane warning was issued and Puerto Rico authorities announced rationing of basic essentials.

Items including water and baby formula are covered by the order.

Officials said Monday the rationing is necessary to ensure everyone has access to basic items such as batteries, milk, canned foods, flashlights and other things. It does not apply to gasoline or other fuels.

The powerful storm made landfall on Dominica around 9:15 p.m. Monday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

“Ham radio reports indicate significant damage to structures has occurred in Dominica,” the hurricane center said Monday night.

The hurricane had briefly dropped down to a Category 4 before regaining strength Tuesday morning.

MORE COVERAGE: Maps and more in Hurricane Central

On Saturday, Maria quickly formed from a tropical depression into a tropical storm. The storm currently has sustained winds of 160 mph. The storm’s strength is expected to fluctuate over the next couple of days.

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Hurricane-force winds stretch up to 30 miles from the storm’s center. Tropical-storm-force winds stretch up to 125 miles from the center.

Forecasters say that the “potentially catastrophic” hurricane with 160 mph winds will likely travel over the Leeward Islands and the extreme northeast Caribbean through Monday night and Tuesday.

Maria is expected to head towards St. Croix and then Puerto Rico. It is forecast to be over St. Croix by Tuesday night then move over Puerto Rico early Wednesday morning.

After that, the storm will head just east of the Turks and Caicos Islands, then make a turn to the north.

MORE COVERAGE: Maps and more in Hurricane Central

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Storm surges of up to 6 to 9 feet are predicted. Forecasters expect some areas of the Caribbean could get up to 25 inches of rain.

Some of the same islands impacted by Irma will face another round of damaging winds and flooding rainfall, disrupting cleanup efforts.

Its path as it nears the United States remains uncertain. If Jose lingers in the Atlantic, its presence could actually help shepherd the storm away from America.

All interests in the Caribbean and United States should monitor Maria through the week into next weekend and early next week.

Long range models show that with the remnant low of Hurricane Jose hanging around off the New England coast, and high pressure over North Carolina and also east of Bermuda, Maria should follow a similar path as Jose and go between those two highs and stay offshore between our coast and Bermuda.

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for:

  •  Guadeloupe
  • Dominica
  • St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Saba and St. Eustatius
  • St. Maarten
  • Anguilla
  • St. Lucia
  • Martinique

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for:

  • Saba and St. Eustatius
  • St. Maarten
  • St. Martin and St. Barthelemy
  • Anguilla
  • Isla Saona to Puerto Plata

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for:

  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • West of Puerto Plata to the northern Dominican Republic-Haiti
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